Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Reed Whittemore studied at Yale. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Air Force.
Whittemore wrote eight volumes of poetry, as well as a biography of William Carlos Williams. He taught at Carlton College in Minnesota before teaching at the University of Maryland (College Park) from 1967 to 1984.
In addition to serving as Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress, he also served as the Poet Laureate of the state of Maryland.